Forestry education ' responding to changing needs
Education related to forests and trees is crucial to achieving sustainable management and national sustainable development goals. Changes in approaches to forestry education are needed as forest policies - and hence the role of foresters - evolve in response to growing demand for forest goods and services, participation of multiple stakeholders in forestry and emphasis on food security and poverty alleviation.
At all levels, curricula need to be updated to include such topics as the role of trees outside forests, collaborative management, gender equity, access and benefit sharing, the impact of certification schemes and participatory learning. By the same token, foresters must be given the opportunity to acquire skills outside the traditional realm of forestry - in communication, business administration and management sciences. Efforts are also needed to monitor and assess the ability of institutions to respond as demands evolve.Forestry students at Makerere University, Uganda (FAO/17538/R. Faidutti)
At the request of member countries, FAO delivers technical assistance in formulating and carrying out activities to tackle their perceived problems in forestry education.
FAO also promotes discussion on forestry education at the global level through the organization of international meetings, together with international partners. Recent examples include an Expert Consultation on Forestry Education (Rabat, Morocco, October 2001), organized by FAO, and the Meeting of International University Education Leaders (Vancouver, Canada, December 2001), organized by the University of British Columbia and FAO. Trends noted by these meetings include a decline in the quality and quantity of forestry students, perhaps due to a lack of employment opportunities for trained foresters and to the increasing need for other skills and expertise in forest management. Thus forestry education is now often absorbed into a broader natural resources management curriculum.
Through support to regional networks of forestry education institutions, such as the Réseau des institutions de formation forestière et environnementale d'Afrique centrale (RIFFEAC), FAO promotes:
- improved coordination among forestry education, research and extension so that knowledge will be more accessible to all stakeholders;
- change in educational institutions and curricula based on the current and projected development needs of the society, which require new profiles for foresters;
- innovative and interactive methods of teaching and learning (e.g. distance learning and use of new information technologies).
FAO also maintains a database on forestry education institutions and one on forestry short courses, both accessible on the Web.